Time is money — for hiring teams and for candidates

Why should you add a coding test time limit to your coding challenges?

Take home coding tests have been standard practice for many European tech companies for a while.

Now, they’re  getting increasingly popular in the USA.

And it makes sense. Technical talent is more in-demand than ever and they want a solution that works for them. For you, as the employer, it’s similarly beneficial to find a convenient solution for assessing technical talent around the world.

Why it’s increasingly hard to attract developers.. And what to do about it

A few years ago, the majority of American tech jobs could be filled with American tech talent.

That’s getting harder to do today as more companies decide they’re tech companies (looking at you, Disney).

According to IT trade group CompTIA, U.S. employers had about 918,000 unfilled IT jobs at the end of 2019, as Wall Street Journal reports.

Many of those jobs are hard to fill because talent is so scarce.

To put this number into perspective:

The U.S. unemployment rate is sitting at its lowest point in the past 40 years (3.5% in Oct. 2019). Roughly 60,000 people graduate with an American computer science degree every year, another 20,000 complete coding bootcamps, and there are only 85,000 H-1B visas to hand out (total — not just to tech talent).

It’s safe to say that we’re pretty shy of filling tech jobs at the rate we should.

The global talent market is more competitive than ever.

That’s why using take-homes becomes a no-brainer: They can be completed anywhere in the world and they help cut down on your hiring process times.

Take-homes also provide an accurate work sample. They show which candidates you’ll want to interview further -- or possibly hire.

And, when designed thoughtfully, they provide an excellent candidate experience. Remember, in this day and age, you need to position yourself as an attractive employer.

But if you do a Google search for take-home coding assignments, you’ll find plenty of comments from developer candidates who pretty much hate interview homework.

Why is that?

Because coding challenges eat up their time.

That's right, take-home assignments take time --  sometimes, a lot of it. Horror stories abound where candidates spend a week on their take-home only to be met with a rejection email or radio silence.

Or, in the worst case, rejection and the discovery that their assignment was used in production later on.

No wonder developers think coding tests are bad.

It’s obvious that those hiring processes aren’t a great experience for the candidate. After all, how many free tests would you be willing to do?

Of course, I know that’s not how you handle candidates, dear reader. Certainly you run a respectable show.

That said, maybe you’re still wondering why setting a time limit for your coding interviews is so important.

Look no further than these 3 coding challenge tips:

1. Reduce the overall time-to-hire

A coding test time limit can reduce overall time-to-hire. These days, hiring processes need to be completed fast.

Having a time limit is a must.

Because otherwise, the interview process can continue indefinitely.

Some hiring teams believe that setting a due date is sufficient to counteract this problem. But the benefit of a time limit is that once the candidate begins their assignment, they have to finish it.

If our coding assignment is well-designed, candidates should be able to complete it in a single 4-6-hour sitting.

If your assignment requires days, you’ll definitely want to cut down on that time.

In fact:

At CodeSubmit, we’ve seen companies reduce their time-to-hire by up to 4 days simply by setting a time limit.

That’s pretty impressive!

2. Accurately compare candidates

Did you know that a bad hire will cost you around 30% of that person’s first-year salary?

Not to mention the toll it takes on your team.

Time limits on your coding tests can help.

That’s because they make it possible for hiring teams to accurately compare candidates.

Setting a time limit means that all candidates interviewing for the position will have the same amount of time to complete the assignment.

A candidate with less free time isn’t penalized for not spending 20 hours on a task.

And on the other hand, candidates can’t spend 14 hours on a test that should have taken them four.

Comparing candidates objectively is difficult enough as it is.

A coding test time limit makes the test a bit fairer. At the same time, your hiring team gets a better idea of who their best candidates really are.

3. A better candidate experience

Last, time limits can help you create a better candidate experience.

That’s because open-ended assignments are stressful -- and much more so than your tests with a time limit.

After all, candidates will feel it’s unclear how much time they should be investing into the assignment.

3 hours? 20 hours? Three days?

With a timed test, you set the minimum expectations from the beginning.

Plus, by including stretch goals, candidates know where to focus their energy.

They get an opportunity to shine and you get an accurate understanding of your candidates’ skills.

Over to you!

There you have it! Now you know why it’s so important to set a time limit on your coding assignments.

After all, it’s in your interest to create a great hiring process and get a real-world understanding of which candidates will perform the best on the job.

For candidates, a great take-home challenge can be an opportunity to understand if you are the right employer for them.

What do you think about setting a coding test time limit as part of your coding interview process? Share your thoughts below!


If you’re actively hiring developer talent or are planning to do so in the near future, then check out CodeSubmit. Start identifying better talent, faster with one of our library assignments (we support over 40 languages and frameworks!) or upload the one you’re using already.

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